The Economic Value of A Multigenerational Workforce

We often talk about the need for teams to be diverse, but we generally imagine that diversity within the same age and experience range.

Say we are looking for a diverse team of marketing managers, we may imagine interviewing a range of candidates whom offer a diverse cultural-perspective, including both men and women. However, we may not think about diversity in terms of age and interdisciplinary experience.

Too often we believe we are successfully hiring diverse candidates even when the individuals we are looking for are within the same narrow age range, and have extremely similar experience and CVs. This is not complete diversity and for companies, it can be a big miss.

Elizabeth Isele, Co-Founder and CEO, SeniorEntrepreneurshipWorks.org, Founder, SavvySeniorsWork.com, and Founder, CyberSeniors.org, is pioneering some incredible advancements in this area.

One idea she has been working on tirelessly to promote is called “Experienced Economy”. Isele works hard to spread global awareness and promote the value and importance of seniors in the workplace. She then shows how this boosts local, national and global economies. To Isele, seniors are vital to a variety of workplaces, from startups to government to business and finance sectors.

A few years ago, at age 70, she launched her third career, “Senior Entrepreneurship Works,” which supports “senior and intergenerational entrepreneurship as a new economic engine.” Isele works with financial service firms across the world to create greater access to capital for senior entrepreneurs. She is also working with universities to develop research on the economic impact of working with seniors.

Promoting senior-led startups in particular makes sense. While the stereotypical startup founder is a 20 or 30-something male, the reality is that people over 55-years old are almost twice as likely to found a successful company than those between 20 and 34-years old. Furthermore, following these companies five years after the business startup, 70% of ventures established by senior entrepreneurs were still in operation compared to just 28% of enterprises established by younger entrepreneurs. Net/net: The senior-led startup is a safer bet.

The Age of No Retirement is also making noble efforts to create a world and workplaces where age is not relevant. Working to break away from stereotypes, the organization’s goal is to bring together “the collective wisdom and constructive participation of everyone — of all ages, from all cultures, and across all geographies — to redesign a new society for all generations.”

Beyond the value of experience, seniors bring interdisciplinary skills and perspectives. Collaborative, multi-generational thinking can have a positive impact on industry sectors like technology, health, education and architecture, enabling them to create new products and services. It can also help to further break down pre-existing barriers and stereotypes.

New Zealand is a country that serves as an excellent example of the value of multi-generational teaming and the positive impact it has on the economy. Culturally, New Zealand baby boomers are very independent and do not view themselves as “old.” They are financially independent and do not typically rely on the younger generations for income. The country is leading the way by ushering in the economic power of older workers. It is projected that New Zealand’s older worker revenue will increase from $1 billion in 2011 to $7 billion in 2051, the tax revenue from older workers will therefore increase from $200 million in 2011, to $1.2 billion in 2051.

No matter the industry or country, multi-generational teams can be a huge asset to organizations. They allow companies to gain greater market share because members reflect a multi-generational market, the team meets the need of a diverse public and ultimately, the team becomes more innovative and creative.

This is a good thing as populations continue age. 32% of the U.S. total workforce in 2014 was over the age of 50, compared to only 27% in 2005. Japan, with the oldest population in the world, has nearly 27% of the population over the age of 65-years old. Missing opportunities to incorporate this experienced population into the workforce can negatively impact your country’s economy and your company’s work and culture. Experienced workers bring interdisciplinary skills and an invaluable perspective of today’s diverse world.

Together, we can work to end age discrimination for a more prosperous, creative and inclusive tomorrow!